Videos from Palo Alto police vehicles and Taser cameras released Tuesday (Jan. 18) revealed an expletive-laced exchange between a man and police officers, who yanked him from his vehicle and used Tasers on him in March 2008.
Joseph "Tony" Ciampi was sleeping in his van on a residential Palo Alto street on March 15, 2008, when three officers approached the van in response to a complaint from a resident who said the man made his family uncomfortable.
The video shows an angry profanity-filled exchange between Ciampi and one of the officers, Kelly Burger, prior to officers firing their Tasers at him. Ciampi was arrested for assaulting police, but Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Thang Nguyen Barrett dismissed the charges in December 2008, after finding that police had illegally lured Ciampi out of his van.
Settlement negotiations are underway between the city and Ciampi, who claims the videos have been doctored to delete about 17 seconds that would show how aggressive officers were.
Video and audio from two patrol-car cameras and from Taser-gun cameras show Burger's and Ciampi's mounting anger as Burger demanded he exit his van. The video footage was shown to reporters Jan. 18 in response to a newspaper's Public Records Act request.
Video shows Officer Manuel Temores and Sgt. April Wagner attempting to get Ciampi to leave his van. No audio of the initial exchange was available because the camera on Temores' patrol car was recording only video, not sound, according to Interim City Attorney Donald Larkin.
When Burger arrived he parked next to Ciampi's van so the video did not show the van. But the camera picked up audio as police got Ciampi to open the van's side door. Ciampi is heard cussing at the officers and demanding to know why he was being disturbed. The video and audio were later combined by the Santa Clara County Crime Lab.
Burger asked Ciampi if he is a heroin addict. Cimpi said he is not. He appeared insulted that police would make that accusation.
One officer replied they had received a call about him.
"So what?" Ciampi shouted. He said he had not done anything wrong and it was not illegal for him to be living in his van on the street.
Police countered that there is a Municipal Code section against living or sleeping in a vehicle. Ciampi demanded they name the ordinance.
The city attorney's office has previously said there is no such ordinance -- only that a vehicle cannot remain in one place for more than 72 hours. City officials are currently looking into enacting a no-vehicle-dwelling ordinance.
"Hey, watch your f---ing mouth," Burger shouted back at Ciampi in response to Ciampi's use of the f-word.
Video from Taser cameras showed the exchanges close up. Tasers pointed spots of light at Ciampi's chest and groin as he sat in his underwear facing police, his legs hanging out of the vehicle.
"Let me see your f---ing hands or I'm going to tase you," Burger shouted.
Ciampi raised his hands, his left palm was toward the officers and his right held a cell phone to his ear. He was calling his attorney, he said.
"Get out of the f---ing car," Burger shouted.
Ciampi at one point began to stand up, but reached down to pick up a bottle of what appeared to be water next to his feet. Burger then grabbed him and yanked him from the vehicle.
A Taser video showed Ciampi's back to officers when a scuffle ensued as they pushed him against a vine-covered fence to handcuff him. Burger was close to Ciampi with his Taser raised. Ciampi turned slightly left toward Burger when Burger fired his Taser. Ciampi turned further and Tasers were fired twice more as Ciampi shouts in alarm.
The video from Temores' vehicle shows Ciampi against the fence and Burger's Taser is very near his body. Ciampi appears to turn and slap Burger. The Taser is heard firing and Ciampi charged away from the fence, slapping frantically toward Burger. At one point, the two tussle.
Ciampi claimed in a federal civil case that police violated his civil rights and that they doctored the video, removing more than 17 seconds to make it seem as though he initiated the assault. The case will soon enter mediation.